Sustainable for a Future

Tara Belland’s Take on the Natural vs. Artificial–Whether or not it is Possible for Anything to be Unnatural


A response to a conversation:

About your friend's take that everything has to be natural, "natural"can have several different meanings. Like from a physicist's perspective everything is natural because everything obeys the basic laws of nature (gravity, etc.) and this is also essentially the definition that's being used when things are categorized as either natural or supernatural. (Though personally, I have always found it silly - and more than a little arrogant - to call anything supernatural.

Like if ghosts or beings from another realm or whatever exist at all, they’re natural, even if science can’t yet explain them.) I think when you or I say “natural” we mean it either in a spiritual sense of how things should be, or in a sense of natural vs. artificial or man-made. This laptop I’m typing on is natural in the sense of obeying the laws of nature and posing no difficulty for scientists to explain, but it is not natural like a pine-cone is natural.

People seem to bother arguing the technicalities of whether anything can be unnatural only when a controversial subject comes up that they'd rather not accept responsibility for their part in. If you say you enjoy spending time in nature, no one argues that sitting in a windowless office counts since the entire universe is "nature."

One could also argue that overpopulation is natural from the perspective of ecology, in that it is natural for a species that gains an advantage to multiply out of control until either over crowding causes disease to take it out or it destroys it's habitat and food source, which we are well on our way to doing already. Balance among living things is not supposed to be a thin line that remains static all the time, but more like a pendulum that swings back and forth maintaining an overall balance. The problem is that humans have gained SUCH an advantage that the whole world is our habitat, and as such is vulnerable to destruction.

My take on it is that humans have in a sense jumped the bounds of what I consider nature. Like yes, our existence as a species is natural, but these days with modern sanitation, vaccines for most contagious diseases, and the ability to ship food and supplies from anywhere in the world in a short time, we have cheated too many of nature's normal methods of restoring balance, perhaps snapping that pendulum right off the string and sending it flying. If people don't believe we have jumped the bounds of nature, than they should at least realize that WITHIN the bounds of nature, overpopulation won't end well for us. I for one believe that the ability to comprehend the problem of our own overpopulation and destructiveness creates some responsibility.

If rabbits understood that breeding out of control in a good year would mean degrading their habitat so that their progeny would starve next time there was a drought or a harsh winter, they might think twice about it too. Since one species gaining this distinct of an advantage over all others is completely unprecedented, we have no way of knowing what the most natural course is from here on out, but it is a definite possibility that the ability of the offending species to understand the situation is a natural last line of defense after all the usual methods of correcting the imbalance from the outside have been thwarted.

If you think about it, a species without the reasoning capacity to understand that they are overpopulating and do something about it, would never have been able to give themselves all of the advantages humans have either. I think the most natural thing is to use the mental capacity we have to make intelligent decisions, and not to blindly follow a destructive course while insisting that if it weren't natural OUTSIDE forces of nature would surely step up and stop it.


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